SA has unacceptably high levels of unemployed people, in particular among the youth. To quote Ellen Wilkinson, the former British Labour politician, “unemployment is a national danger and a national scandal”. The level of employment is an important measure of the economic health of society, and by that measure alone we are failing as a country. The latest figures released by Stats SA pre-lockdown indicated an official unemployment rate of 30%, with the expanded definition of unemployment, which includes discouraged work seekers, significantly higher. In the second quarter of 2020, the economy shed a further 2.2-million jobs as a result of the lockdown measures taken in response to the pandemic.

It is clear that we are not a rich nation and we are not able to throw money at the problem, as has been done in other parts of the world. However, good policy costs little, and the government must prioritise employment-friendly initiatives at the centre of economic strategy. Not to do ...

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